ASICS GEL-Nimbus 21 Review

There are some pretty significant changes to the new ASICS GEL-Nimbus 21, which change the overall fit and feel of the shoe. Let’s see how the new one fits, feels, and functions!

The new Nimbus is – in theory – ASICS’ maximum-cushion neutral trainer. The 21 continues the departure from the long line of soft, pillowly Nimbus’ and is even firmer than the the outgoing 20.

ASICS GEL-NIMBUS 20 vs 21!

  • ASICS continues the trend towards a performance/responsive ride and away from a soft, protective ride
  • The redesigned upper provides slightly more room in the toebox and creates a wider shoe overall
  • The midsole has seen significant changes and the shoe is much more responsive/faster (and less cushioned)
  • Like other recent ASICS updates, the midsole isn’t as flexible as you might expect – the overall feel is a little slappy
  • On the plus side, the shoe feels much better when running than it does upon initial step-in (which feels very firm)

 

Fit

Despite having some sizing issues with some recent Nimbus’, the 21 feels like a pretty standard fit. The upper feels pretty traditional in terms of providing a structured upper with a pretty wide toebox. It’s a knit upper with printed overlays, so it’s plenty breathable and flexible… but the knit doesn’t have the soft/sock-like feel of some of the newer materials from Nike, New Balance, or Brooks. Sizing is back to true-to-size, so ASICS has improved drastically on that front – especially from the 19. Width is pretty standard overall, with the toebox providing a generous amount of room both in terms of depth and width. The heel counter isn’t as aggressive as some of the previous Cumulus’ and Nimbus’, but you still feel it when you put it on and does a pretty good job of locking your heel in while running.

Feel

Most of the industry is moving in the same direction, and ASICS is no exception. That direction is performance. The Nimbus has traditionally been on par with its competitors in terms of fulfilling its max-cushion design goals, but with the transition to using more FlyteFoam, less GEL, and less traditional EVA, the ride has gotten significantly firmer over the past few generations. Like the Nike Vomero, the Nimbus is at a point where it really can’t be considered in the super-cushioned category. Both still feel really protective and appropriate for high-volume training, but they’re not going to give you the marshmallow ride of Nimbus past. You do have to get around the initial slip-in and stand-up feel. When you put the shoes on initially, they feel very firm and very stiff. Once you get running or walking, the progressive cushion does show up – but it takes putting some weight on it.

 Function

The Nimbus is designed as a a neutral trainer and has historically been really only appropriate for purely neutral runners, but the 21’s more firm cushion and wide outsole flare has provided more balance to the platform. It’s not something that’s going to provide outright guidance, but it does keep you balanced in the shoe.

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Comparisons:

ASICS GEL-Nimbus vs GEL-Cumulus:

In their newest versions (Nimbus 21 vs Cumulus 20), both shoes use ASICS newish FlyteFoam (in slightly different configurations) and pretty traditional mesh upper. You really feel the similarities in the two shoes. With the most recent update to the Nimbus, the two shoes are probably as similar as they’ve ever been. The Nimbus does have more to it, but it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between the two. Overall, the Cumulus is still a little on the narrow side and still has a heel collar that’s more intrusive than average. Both provide a stable/solid-feeling ride, which somewhat compromises having a completely smooth transition.  The Cumulus is lighter, but it doesn’t necessarily feel all that much lighter on-foot. The upper and midsole are simply are a little softer in the Nimbus, but only barely. You ride a little higher in the Nimbus. Neither shoe provides significant guidance for runners with more flexible foot strikes.

ASICS GEL-Nimbus vs Brooks Ghost:

Comparing it to the industry’s leading shoe, the Nimbus shows some of the issues that ASICS has had throughout their lineup that they have been working through to catch up with the rest of the industry.  The Ghost is wider overall, most notably in the toebox. The uppers are vastly different, with the Ghost featuring a flexible knit mesh featuring few overlays, and the Nimbus going with a much more structured knit upper. The Ghost is much lighter – and you can certainly tell when running in them.  Despite the weight difference, the Ghost still feels softer. At the same time, it feels like a faster shoe overall with its lower profile and lighter weight. The amount of guidance in each shoe is minimal, and both are great options for neutral runners.

ASICS Nimbus vs Nike Vomero:

Despite having a similar overall conceptual goal of providing a consistently high level of cushion and both moving in the “performance” direction with their latest updates, the two shoes feel pretty different. While the Vomero has gone to a faster, more performance-feeling react foam, it still feels significantly softer than the Nimbus. The Vomero feels much lower in the heel and the overall shoe feels much more flexible, while the Nimbus’ heel feels a lot more stable/platform-like. The Nimbus does have a higher consistency of cushion, with the Vomero’s thinner platform prone to some odd bumps and ridges. In terms of weight, the Vomero has dropped a good deal of weight in its transition to a new foam and feels much lighter thanks to the springy midsole and flexible upper. Widths are about the same, but the Vomero’s upper mesh is much more flexible and forgiving. As each is designed as purely neutral trainers, guidance for each shoe is minimal.

ASICS Nimbus vs HOKA Clifton:

Previous version’s of these shoes might have been comparable in terms of plushness, but with the Nimbus’ transition to a more performance-feeling shoe, it is no longer a very close match. The Clifton is much softer. It’s hard to compare anything to the rocker feel of the HOKA, and the Nimbus feels much more stable in terms of the platform, but overall the Clifton feels softer, lighter, and faster.  The upper of the Clifton feels much more forgiving and a little softer than the Nimbus. It also has more room in the toebox. Both have minimal inherent stability but and function best as neutral shoes.

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